Deputies charged in property dispute

Published 7:36 am Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Two Panola County deputies are scheduled to appear in Sardis Municipal Court this Thursday to answer charges of willful trespassing, malicious mischief, and larceny (petit and grand).

Tommy Linzey and Tommy Crutcher, both veteran law enforcement officers, and Crutcher’s brother Tracy Crutcher, are on the court docket, scheduled to convene at 9 a.m. at the Sardis Municipal Courtroom.

The matter stems from a Sept. 29, 2021, incident at 311 Hightower St. in Sardis. The homeowner, Patricia Nixon, swore affidavits against the three men on Dec. 6, 2021.

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Sardis police were called to the address when Nixon arrived home to find Linzey and Tommy Crutcher removing tools and building supplies from a shed on the property. 

Nixon, an educator at North Panola, called Sardis police to report what she believed to be a crime in progress.

A responding Sardis officer, after talking to both parties, determined that the situation was a misunderstanding and wrote in his report that he thought it was a civil matter, and not criminal. Statements were made by all involved and no charges were filed.

The affidavits were filed about two months later and are now coming up on the court docket.

Nixon, who was deeded the house she had rented from Michael Saripkin when he was sentenced to prison for child molestation, told officers she was unaware that items in the shed had been stored there by Tracy Crutcher when he was working on real estate with Saripkin.

Some of those items were tools and supplies that Linzey had purchased from Saripkin before he was sentenced and imprisoned. The ownership of the tools and materials are apparently not in question, and the charges stem from Tracy Crutcher’s admitted action of cutting a lock off the shed and telling the deputies they could remove the items.

Reports from reliable sources say that Linzey and Tommy Crutcher may not have been aware that the shed was on Nixon’s property because it is located near the property line and is actually closer to another house.

Still, Nixon maintains that the deputies were wrong to come onto the property without permission, and should have questioned why a lock was on the building that neither them or Tracy Crutcher had a key to open.

Nixon, in her statement, also said that Sardis is a small town where “everybody knows everybody” and the men could have easily contacted her before Tracy Crutcher cut the lock and called the others to load their trailer.

Sheriff Shane Phelps said he learned about the matter shortly after it happened and talked to both deputies and other law enforcement who had information.

“From what I gathered these are misdemeanor charges, and I have reasons to believe that neither of the Panola County deputies involved went to Sardis that day to steal anything, or damage anyone’s private property,” Phelps said. “The Sheriff’s Office took no action because I didn’t believe the situation called for anything at this point. It’s a civil disagreement and that’s what our court system is for, to work out disagreements when they come up, even if it involves law enforcement officers.”
Phelps said he will make any further decisions about the case after court on Thursday.

“Right now we need to let the court process work, and see what is decided there,” Phelps said. “If I thought there was a crime committed by an employee then those employees would no longer be a part of the Sheriff’s Office.”

Although almost every Mississippi criminal statute includes the phrase “and/or” for jail time as penalty for violation of codes, these types of charges generally carry only monetary fines and no jail time.